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David Russell

David Russell, born in 1940 and resident in the UK, is a writer of poetry, literary criticism, speculative fiction and romance.
Earlier poetry collections include Prickling Counterpoints (1998) and his poems have been published online in the International Times. His main speculative works are "High Wired On" 2002; "Rock Bottom" 2005. In 2013, he published a translation of the Spanish epic "La Araucana" (Amazon). David's romances are "Self's Blossom", "Explorations", "Further Explorations", "Therapy Rapture", and "Darlene, An Ecstatic Rendezvous" (all pb Extasy - Devine Destinies).
He is also is a singer-songwriter and guitarist, and his main CD albums are "Bacteria Shrapnel" and "Kaleidoscope Concentrate". Many of the tracks can be found on You Tube by searching under 'Dave Russell'. David's pamphlet of environmental poetry An Ever River is being published by Palewell Press in April 2018.

Reviews of An Ever River

Early reviews have been enthusiastic and we reproduce below the ones received from Colin Hambrook, Paul Dolinsky and Alan Morrison.

Review from Colin Hambrook, Editor http://disabilityarts.online

As the title of Dave Russellís collection suggests An Ever River bursts and blisters with references to the elements, nature and humanityís emotional connection to Ecology. The collection is packed with metaphor, immersed in scientific references at turns offering an indictment of manís ignorance and greed, contrasted with a deep sadness for the seeming impossibility for the human race to get its act together and actually cooperate to curb its destructive behaviours on each other, on nature and on the environment.

The opening poem With Respect to the Whale pulls no punches. Russell sets the tone of his collection, honouring the carcasses of rare or extinct species set behind glass in the Museum Ė mirrors of the path trodden by humanity, he says. There is the inevitability of the self-destructive course we are taking, to the point we are rendered 'mere cinder-blistered slime'.

no species that survives will honour you;
in all your seeming strength your final weakness,
cutting your lifelines with your every grab
for further power and satiation.

As a counterpoint there is hope in the form of natureís resilience within a sensibility that gives more than a nod to the New Physics immersed in Eastern mysticism. It is a poetry of the Apocalypse, a meditation on power and a hymn to the cycles turned since life emerged from 'the primal ooze' and the balance of power that has kept wheels turning. An Ever River flows like the thoughts of a god overlooking the history of life itself - a commentary on the paradoxical nature of the universe and the question that surround its existence and the proof of its unwavering impossibility. And then a spark of Russell will suddenly break through the stream of reflection on the primal soup as in Mid-Life:

So much happened;
so much didnít Ė
so nice to remember;
so painful to recall

Or the text will turn from the macrocosm to the microcosm as in In Transit where it is as if God had come to analyse the atoms in a tube train, its carriages and the seats within its carriages. God may have made man in his image, but Russellís commentary suggests he may have lost a sense of self in the process - although not at the expense of an obscure humour.

But you still like the idea of topness and paperness as something
permanent Ė Without it, the pretty design will truly go to pot Ė being
merely liquid.

Russellís text is dense with imagery; he paints with words, a master of abstraction, teasing remnants of representation from torn ligaments. Alchemist, for example, reads like an instruction: 'Sing, earth-captured starlight...Sing through my blinking tubes and phials.' There is no clear conclusion resulting from the 'small breedings / in clean-forgotten courses' except for the satirical playfulness that pulses rhythmic and cutting.

In conclusion having known David Russellís work over several decades, it's a delight to see this collection from Palewell Press with a few old favourites. It is the poetry of a keen intelligence with a love for words and the sounds and imagery that can be teased from them.

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Review from Paul Dolinsky, author of Collected Poems on Buddhist Themes

A key theme of this collection, is that at least some human activity has become like a natural disaster, which destroys the environment and the living beings in it, as effectively as any natural disaster. The condensed power in these poems, seems to be drawn from the very potency and poignancy of this situation. Hence, the last two stanzas of the opening poem, With Respect To the Whale.

no species that survives will honour you;
in all your seeming strength your final weakness,
cutting your lifelines with your every grab
for further power and satiation.

The time to halt is now; let live and know Ė
abjure corrupt proliferation, grow
in numbers' confines, species' truest bounds.

Individual poems show nature manifesting in and out of the its various forms - plants, animals humans, and dead things. One poem Underwater Ballet ends with this description of the transition from gills to lungs:

Last bursting thrust,
febrile diffusion;
velvet sense Ė soft through soaking,
impervious skin in utter life.

Its elements sliding;
gills suckling lungs.

From nature, we draw both our physical substance as human beings, and whatever aesthetics, values, and meaning that we ascribe to our lives. However, several poems describe death as part of nature but also as destroyer of human aspiration. The poem Cremation uses the image of the monolithic tomb to describe the human predicament of human aspiration always ending in death.

The first was built to say
"We stand forever, cleaving heaven and earth."

The last: "We can accept the moment only;
When allís affirmed, we are as powder."

The ebb and flow from life to non-life includes speculation of what if there was nothing, rather than something. In the title poem, An Ever River, which ends the collection, the poet puts it this way - that life and death anticipate each other. Thus, the scenes and sentiments descried are stark, but not hopeless for the future of the earth and of humans. We'll end this review with Disintegration, a short and powerful poem that describes hope for both humanity and the survival of the earth.

The bottom fell out
and all things gathered,
reverted to their origins,
in skips, on pavements,
fell to casual hands.
But in the pit
of all exhaustion,
at the bottom of gripís loss
are seeds and roots
of restoration,
which in their throbbing cycles
breathe out on pine and belt.
The bottom stood solid.

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Review from Alan Morrison, Editor of The Recusant

Dave Russellís surrealistic Eco-poetry defies easy categorisationĖincluding the one Iíve just given it. In An Ever River, Russell voices environmental concerns, crucially, about all types of environment: natural, artificial, human, urban, mental, emotional. Russell mines language for its synergies and particulars, and its sound-associations - 'for retroaction blends fact/ with pretence, / solid in sense Ė incense', Mid-Life; marshalling a mineralogical vocabulary but ultimately travelling 'beyond manís symbols', With Respect to the Whale.

There's an element of misanthropy in leitmotifs of humans as art-making parasites who 'abrade the pencilled rocks', Connections; and abuse nature's finite resources: 'The seething energy-city, ever greedy to accelerate', Earthquake. The savage ergonomics of the underground give passengers 'the most complete awareness of the toil and/ monotony which went into making the tube', In Transit. At times his poetry is oblique, almost cryptic:

The foundations could be called organic,
so people longed to analyse to scrutinize,

trade silver mercury
-- Growth Before Buildings;

You carried your vengeance beyond decease Ė
slowed down the pyreís cleansing,
-- Immortality.

Russell uses language as grease for the imagination. Some of his tropes have the enigma of Oriental gnomic utterances:

Go all around; you are a magnet;
the things you seek are tiny, chipped filings,
very little in themselves,
-- Panic;

and the haiku-like:

First there was a God
bounded by no face,
faced by no boundaries,
-- Reflections.

The strange alchemy of ecological, psychiatric and dystopian sci-fi images, Space Capsule Volunteer and symbols calls to mind such diverse writers as R.D. Laing, Joseph MacLeod, Philip K. Dick, John Wyndham, David Gascoyne, J.G. Ballard and Jeremy Reed. There are also naÔf frissons and quirky rhymes reminiscent of Stevie Smith:

You're only sure you're sane, ok?
when one like you is put away.
There rooted the bare, threaded nerve,
the stunted limb, enfeebled grasp,
the shake.

"Donít touch!"
Their errors paralyse them.
He only wanted to make something work,
"Donít touch! He might be dead",
-- Donít Touch!.

Or Stevie channelled through D.H. Lawrence:

I touched a scorpion; it struck.
It was my fault; I had been warned Ė
but for one split second
its beauty-fascination wrenched me
from reasonís ice.

I donít think anyone could find a scorpion ugly.
They shine too,
-- Scorpion.

Russell's poetry is almost always sublime, very often visceral, disturbing (which is a good thing), and at times profound:

as every block of granite,
basalt, obsidian
melts into a stained-glass window',
-- Respitoration.

Above all, it is energetically imaginative, and imaginatively energising.

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